was commissioned in 1952 as one of 70 members of the Victorian Railway's
R-class 4-6-4 ‘Hudson’ main line passenger locomotives. These locomotives
were designed by Victorian Railways and were urgently required in post-World
War 2 period, but construction had been delayed by competing priorities. Eventually
construction was outsourced to the North British Locomotive Company,
Glasgow but, as with so many post-war steam locomotives orders, delivery
ultimately came years after the demand had required. The R-class superseded
the A2-class 4-6-0 locomotives on fast passenger turns however the
simultaneous arrival of first-generation diesels reduced their usefulness
and the R-class was destined for relatively short lives and low mileages.
was among the last of the class in traffic when withdrawn in 1968, many
sisters having already been scrapped. It was stored at Newport Workshops
for some years before being restored to operation for enthusiast railtour
duties. I understand the locomotive is owned by ‘R766 Incorporated’. During
the 1990’s this locomotive was maintained alongside the Steamrail Victoria
loco fleet at Newport Workshops and wore an attractive (but non-original)
Canadian Red livery.
was later leased to West Coast Railway for operation on the 'Westcoaster'
trains between Melbourne and Warrnambool (together with R 711) and received
the name ‘City of Bendigo’. At that stage the locomotive received some rebuilding
and modernisation along the same lines as R
711, including conversion to oil firing.
2005 came the interesting news that R 766 had been leased to the Hunter
Valley Railway Trust for movement to Branxton, NSW and conversion to
standard gauge. This significant work has now been largely completed,
featuring a few modifications such as the replacement of the leading bogie spoked
wheel centres with those of the disc variety. Interestingly, the main
driving wheels were swapped with those of sister R700 prior to fitting on
new standard-gauge axles. Photographs from Branxton in November 2014 showed
R 766 generally complete and being fettled and painted in preparation for testing
knowledge, firm plans for R 766 operations after overhaul are yet to be
announced. The progressive expansion of standard gauge across Australia
provides the opportunity for this relatively modern and fast steam locomotive
to visit all the major cities and to enjoy a broad sphere of operation.
766 performed trial runs at Rothbury on 24 July 2021, as seen in this YouTube video by
Graeme Belbin. A second YouTube video provides a project overview
and status report as of August 2021. I understand main-line trials are
expected to follow later in 2021, and hopefully this fine locomotive will
soon be riding the rails around NSW! Further updates can be found on social
media pages for the R
766 Update Group.
provides further information about the Victorian Railways R-class locomotives.